NC Lawmakers Hear from Colleagues and Business Leaders on Grade-Level Reading
“To increase economic growth and ensure the prosperity of all North Carolinians, we must cultivate a future workforce that is highly literate, knowledgeable, and skilled. This will only happen when we give each child a fair chance to fulfill his or her potential from the start.”
That’s what James Maynard, Co-Founder and Chairman of Golden Corral Corporation, told a room of more than 45 members of the NC General Assembly; representatives from the Governor’s Office, Department of Public Instruction and Superintendent’s staff; and leaders from early learning and education organizations.
His remarks were part of a legislative breakfast on Grade-Level Reading hosted by the NC Early Childhood Foundation and BEST NC. The breakfast featured remarks by Senator Tamara Barringer, Representative Craig Horn, Mr. Maynard and BEST NC Chair Walter McDowell.
The event highlighted the importance of grade-level reading and key concepts in birth-through-eight child development to guide policy.
Reading in the early grades predicts high school success. If a child is not reading at grade level by the end of first grade, that child has about a 10 percent chance of reading at grade level by the end of fourth grade. Those who read well, go on to graduate, but those who aren’t reading well by the end of third grade, are four times more likely to drop out of high school. In North Carolina, 31% of all fourth graders could not read at a basic level according to the National Assessment of Educational Progress 2013.
Recognizing the importance of third grade reading outcomes, the North Carolina General Assembly passed Read to Achieve in 2012 as part of the Excellent Public Schools Act. Under this law, third grade students who are not reading at grade level by the end of third grade receive additional help to make sure that they can read well enough to be able to do fourth-grade work. Last year, 12.7% of third grade students were “retained” and receiving additional support. (Retained includes retained back in the third grade, a student that was placed in a 3/4 transition class or a student that was placed in the 4th grade accelerated class.)
NCECF Executive Director, Tracy Zimmerman, provided a crash course in brain science. She shared that reading proficiency is a cumulative process that develops from birth and is rooted in early brain development. The most rapid period of development in human life occurs from birth to age eight. What happens in these first eight years sets the foundation for all of the years that follow. Attendees were particularly interested in the graph below, which provides a visual explanation for the “pay now or pay more later” economic rationale for early learning investments.
Ability to Change Brains and Behaviors Decreases Over Time
- News and Observer: Getting children ready to read starts in infancy, lawmakers told
- Time Warner Cable News: State Lawmakers Discuss Early Childhood Development in NC Students
- Education NC: Lawmakers get breakfast with a side of disturbing facts
 Nemours. Frequently Asked Questions: Reading Readiness. www.nemours.org/service/health/brightstart/about/faq.html.
 Hernandez, Donald J. Double Jeopardy How Third-grade Reading Skills and Poverty Influence High School Graduation. Baltimore MD: Annie E. Casey Foundation, 2011. Print.
 U.S. Department of Education, Institute of Education Sciences, National Center for Education Statistics, National Assessment
of Educational Progress (NAEP), 2013 Reading Assessment.
 Improve K-3 Literacy Accountability Measures Comprehensive Plan for Reading Achievement SL 2012-142 (HB950),Sec.7A.1(b) G.S. 115C-83.1D. Rep. Department of Public Instruction, 15 Oct. 2014. Web. 5 Mar. 2015.
 Center on the Developing Child (2007). The Science of Early Childhood Development (InBrief). www.developingchild.harvard.edu.